Considerations For Assessing Patients Via Telehealth

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many mental health services moved their patients to telehealth practices to maintain physical distancing guidelines. While the services based on verbal interactions run smoothly, assessment services requiring in-person contact have proven challenging. Here are some important considerations when determining how to move forward with assessments in telepractice.

Assessment Technology

The assessor will need access to proper technology, including high-speed internet, a webcam, and online assessment access. Connections need to be secure on both ends. You must understand the functions of the platform you’re using and carefully consider how it can best mimic traditional services. Another important aspect of telepractice is to ensure test security even in a virtual environment.  Remote audio-visual monitoring is critical to maintain security and ensure the validity of test results.

Function Of The Assessment

Before conducting a telehealth assessment, consider its purpose and criticality. The decision to wait or proceed with analysis is dependent on the possibility of skewed data from telepractice.

Extra care for a diagnosis, legal issue, or prescription of services, is necessary to preserve data integrity and avoid ramifications from an assessment. Evaluations least likely to be harmed by skewed data through a remote platform include screeners and progress monitors.

Data Quality

Once you’ve determined that an assessment needs to be green-lighted, you should think through each task of the instrument to determine how much of the data quality will be affected by the alternate format. Quality images, distortion of sound, and state of mind of the patient are all considerations that could affect the potential outcome.

Rating Scales

Teacher rating scales should be used with caution following COVID-19, keeping in mind that many schools were fully virtual or hybrid. Teachers should have at least a month’s worth of in-person instruction with a student in order to complete an accurate rating scale. Parent rating scales can be weighted more heavily in the overall observation if the teachers’ ratings don’t meet qualifications. Another possibility is to widen the confidence interval when making decisions based on rating scales and any telepractice assessments where the margin of error is likely broadened.

Different Time Points

It is unethical to move forward with an evaluation without using all the pieces of information gathered throughout the process. However, if part of the data was collected prior to the pandemic and part was collected in the middle of quarantine, there can be discrepancies in the results. Including data such as interviews focused on behavior and social-emotional conditions. Used correctly, this data can provide a valuable look at changes over time.

Client Characteristics

Some clients are less able to participate in telepractice assessments. Patients in the following categories may need alternative assessment plans:

  • Younger children
  • lack of technology expertise
  • unable to read
  • short attention span
  • Patients with significant disabilities
  • fine or gross motor delays
  • physical disabilities
  • significant attention difficulties
  • Patients from lower socioeconomic households
  • may not have computer, internet, webcam
  • may not have a distraction-free space
  • Individuals with language barriers
  • Those with high anxiety levels

Ultimately, it is the professional’s decision whether assessments should be given through telehealth and how much weight the results should receive. Think through the assessment and the individual to determine whether it’s best to evaluate remotely or wait until conditions allow in-person testing. Visit WPS for more information about psychological and educational assessments.

*collaborative post

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